How to Create the Perfect Portfolio Without Experience

How to Create the Perfect Portfolio Without Experience

So you think you’re a writer do ya? 

Do you have samples? 

Can I look at them? 

As a  writer, you are super excited about beginning, and I’m not going to lie, starting is intense. Think of it as though you’re learning how to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time.

At least, that is how I felt.

But as you approach potential clients you realize you don’t have a portfolio to share and demonstrate your skills.

Wait!

Let me explain.

First of all, you need a portfolio that looks professional and demonstrates your skills, but more importantly demonstrates you know what you’re doing.

You can create a portfolio without experience, and it’s super easy.

As I began to create my first few pitches, I used blog posts from my former blog “Thoughts From a French Girl”, in addition to those I created posts on Medium.com as another platform to share.

I found this was enough to get me a few guest postings, and even a couple of paid projects.

But there was something else I discovered.

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Aside from creating content in the form of articles and blog posts you can create something called Spec Ads.

 

What are spec ads?

Spec ads are faux ads for you to use to demonstrate your skill. They are a cost-efficient, and simple solution to pad your portfolio and add more depth to your samples.

Research the internet for sample advertisements that you want to recreate.

Some examples include; emails, newsletters, banner ads, press releases, and much more. 

 

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As you create your spec ad, remember to treat the project as though it were a real paying project.

Depending on the type of project you want to work on, you may need to include a designer.

Why?

If you try to do the design yourself it could come out looking as though an amateur completed it, and you want to put your BEST work on your portfolio.

Plus this is a great time to get used to working with designers.

Draft a creative brief and use that brief to help guide your project for you and your designer. (should you use one).

Should you choose to use a designer for a specific project you can find a freelance designer on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. 

 

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Wait, what is a creative brief?

 

A creative brief is almost like an outline that helps you understand what the client needs help with and what is the focus of the project.

Using a Creative brief is important for any project because it helps to keep you aware of the problem you are trying to solve for the client.

Not sure about your writing? Feel as though you may need a boost? Be sure to read How to Elevate your writing before working on your next creative brief.

But more about that in a minute.

 

Regardless of the type of spec ad you decide to create for your portfolio, treat the project as a real project.

 

Begin your research with a real company.  Check out their website or magazine ads and make sure to examine their voice and copy style.

 

 

Get a feel for the brand.

 

 

Using your creative brief, I will provide you with a template below, answer the questions and get as much information as you can.

 

If this were a real client, you want to appear professional, so ask as much as you can about the company, so you don’t have to constantly ask for follow-ups.

 

 

The creative brief is your best friend.

 

 

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Some things to remember to include in your spec ad.

 

1. Treat the project as though it is real-do your research 

2. Set a deadline for when the project should be completed, keep track of your time that way you have a good sense of how long it takes to complete specific projects. 

3. What problem are you trying to solve for this brand with this ad or content? How have you solved it? Provided the reader with value? 

4. What words describe this brand’s voice? Can the same words be used to describe the voice in your writing? 

5. Who is the target audience? What is their need/challenge/pain? 

6. Have you clearly conveyed the benefit of the product/service to the target audience? 

7. Can you include more emotion in the content? Ad? 

 

8. Keep in mind that every project is solving a problem for the client. Did you help them with that? (example: get more followers, inform clients of sales, get more sign ups, etc)

9. The first part of your copy or content should be a description of the target audience’s needs. Provide a short recap of that problem

10. Present your solution immediately no hiding it.  The solution you provide should solve the challenge. 

 

Spec Ad Example-Email

Subject Line:    Here’s $40 on US

Snippet:
Tell us all about your favorite fragrance. Take our short survey and get a $40 credit.

Headline:
Get $40 to tell us about your favorite fragrance

Subhead
Welcome Back! We have two quick questions for you.

Body
Would you please fill out our petite short survey? It will only take two minutes of your time, bring you tons of good energy-oh, and a $40 credit towards your next purchase.

CTA
(take the Survey)

Creative Briefs

A creative brief is where you gather information about the company and what its focus is for the project.

With every project, it is a good idea to create a creative brief. Use the brief as your guide to keep focused,  understand deeper the voice and tone of the brand, and determine who the target audience is.

 

The way you complete the creative brief can be done either during a meeting or have the client begin the process prior to the meeting.

 

Below is a sample outline of a Creative Brief that you can use, should you like to purchase a customizable creative brief, get one in our Christina Q Resource Shop.

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Creative Brief Template

Below I’m including basic questions you should have in your creative brief, but don’t be afraid to add something else as you need.

 

 

               Project title                                  Creative Review date

Today’s date                                  Launch Date

 

Objectives:

Who are you communicating with? Is this the contact person? What is their contact information? What do you know about them?

 

What is the ONE main thing we want our audience to do?

 

What is the benefit for the audience if they do this? (What are they getting out of this?)

 

What other actions would you like the audience to take?

 

What are the business’s goals for this project? What are the measurements? Example: more views or get more sign ups

 

 

What is the tone of this project? (Circle the tone that applies)

Serious

Lighthearted

Fun

Practical

Serious

Friendly

 

Business-like

Excited

Promotional

Straightforward

Educational

Sincere

Other

 

 

What are the deliverables?

Email

Landing page

Site page

Confirmation page

Banner ad

Newsletter

Other :

 

 

(Optional) what size do you need?

 

Do you want to test versions? How many times would you like to test?

 

Are there any elements that are necessary, mandatory, or required?

 

Have you done anything similar before? What was the outcome? (If possible, include screenshots)

 

Who are your competitors?

 

Have they done anything similar? What was their results? (If possible include screenshots)

 

Anything else you feel needs to be included for this project?

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Content writing for your portfolio

Another way to add your portfolio is to provide content in different forms on many platforms.

 

I’m talking about social media, blog posts, etc. You could even write a script for a video or podcast.

 

Include something like this on your website portfolio (that is based on a subject close to your niche)

If you don’t have writing samples to show off, don’t fret. Read about creating writing samples from scratch to help you get started.

 

Difference between copy and content

Copy persuades an audience, but content provides entertainment via stories, information, guides, and inspiration.

The backbone essentially is to make a connection with the audience and get them to take action.

Content adds value to the company site and further benefits the consumer.

 

If the content on the business’s site is useful and enjoyable, the client will return, especially if they find it useful/helpful but also fun to read.

 

This, in turn, will convert the reader into a subscriber and follower, which will then allow the company to be “marketed” organically through its followers.

 

When you create your spec content, you want to make sure that, fake or not, you create meaningful information that improves the readers’ life, not the company.

 

Tip:

Use a test audience, discover their likes, needs and wants, challenges, and how you can help them.

 

Decide if the audience wants to be inspired? Educated? Entertained?

Final Thoughts

Whether you are just beginning your freelance writing career, or you’ve been doing it for a while now, a portfolio is how you get your foot in the door.

 

The portfolio is your resume!

 

Use the spec ads and spec content to create a professional-looking online portfolio that you can be proud of and also attract potential clients.

 

If you’re not sure if the content you created is up to snuff, ask for feedback from communities on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn in exchange for feedback.

 

So, don’t be afraid or think you have no samples to show off, because you do.

Now get to writing!

 

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